Review: JUSTICE LEAGUE 2022 ANNUAL #1
[Editor’s Note: This review may contain spoilers]
Writer: Brian Michael Bendis
Artist: Sanford Greene
Colors: Matt Herms, Sanford Greene
Letters: Josh Reed
Reviewed By: Derek McNeil
Justice League 2022 Annual #1: The return of Wonder Woman! Wait, what’s that? Also, the return of…OMAC! Jack Kirby’s greatest creation, the One-Man Army Corps, returns to the DC universe just in time to team up with the reunited Justice League to stop secret forces of evil from gathering! Join Eisner Award-winner Sanford Greene as he brings the legacy of the League to life leading into Justice League vs. the Legion of Super-Heroes!
Brian Michael Bendis’ run as writer is coming to a close with issue #74, but the Justice League 2022 Annual gives him a chance to get an extra story in before moving on. This self-contained story is much like the rest of Bendis’: a mixed bag of good and bad.
One thing that was evident in Bendis’ run so far is that the team lineup is out of synch with the rest of the DCU books. Superman and the Barry Allen Flash remained present, despite being absent from Earth in their own books. And Wonder Woman was absent, despite her return to Earth in her own title. But finally, the team’s lineup is in synch with events in the wider DCU.
In fact, the story involves a celebration at the Hall of Justice to celebrate Wonder Woman’s return to the team. This means that we get to see some great guest stars like Plastic Man and Stargirl. It’s too bad that these guests didn’t have a more significant role in the story. However, the classic version of O.M.A.C. is central to the story.
There are also some nice nods to Justice League history. The villain of the issue is the Lord of Time, Epoch, a villain from the League’s earliest adventures in the Silver Age. The Super Friends cartoon was a big part of my childhood, so I was pleased to see both the Hall of Justice and the Hall of Doom make an appearance in the same issue. And I quite liked the image of Diana admiring a painting of the League’s first adventure. In this painting, Sanford Greene gives us his own loving interpretation of the classic cover from The Brave and the Bold #28.
With Epoch as the villain and the future hero O.M.A.C. as a guest star, it’s not surprising that time travel is a large part of the story. And Bendis uses this as an opportunity to lay some hints about his Justice League Vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes story. Epoch reveals that he has come to the present to search for a powerful artifact. He fails to find it, but he gives the League a warning: “The ring! The Gold Lantern! If you find itttt…! Dessstroy…”.
This implies that the Gold Lantern ring may be a threat. And we are shown that the ring lays undiscovered at the former site of the Hall of Doom. With the character Gold Lantern playing a central role in Bendis’ crossover miniseries, it seems that this ring’s presence may prove to tie into the upcoming Great Darkness storyline.
A time travel story can be amazing when written well, but confusing when not. Unfortunately, Bendis’ writing on the Justice League has generally been less than stellar. Bendis’ story can be mostly followed, but there are elements that go unexplained. For example, we don’t get any real explanation for why there are four different versions of Epoch in the story. Bendis states it’s because he’s caught in a “trinity loop”. But there’s no indication of what that is. And shouldn’t a “trinity” loop produce three versions of him, not four?
During the story, Hawkgirl is thrown into the future and returns moments later thanks to a device she got from Epoch while in the future. That’s all well and good. But Bendis makes the unnecessary revelation that Hawkgirl spent quite a while in that future, implying she had a relationship with O.M.A.C. Now, this would be interesting if it were going to be explored in future issues of the title or in an O.M.A.C. series. But it’s almost certain that future writers are going to ignore this entirely.
The Justice League 2022 Annual, like most of Bendis’ run, has some problems. However, it is one of his better efforts on the title so far. While it would be nice if he could maintain this higher level of quality going forward, the matter is moot considering that he will be moving on from the title. Hopefully, his Justice League Vs. The Legion of Super-Heroes miniseries will be more like this annual than his work on the main series.